Feb 28 / Rob

Quick Thoughts on JMU 36 Robert Morris 16

Wow. That was a bit more than any of bargained for, huh? JMU faced a serious test from Robert Morris in week two, but rallied after halftime to win by 20. It was a hard fought game that not a lot of us saw coming. The Dukes played poorly, very poorly, in the opening half and went into the break knotted at 16. The Dukes offense struggled and Cole Johnson threw three first half picks. However, a late second quarter TD drive appeared to spark the team and right the ship. JMU rode a 27-0 surge to close things out and secure the win. Here are a few quick thoughts on the victory.

Robert Morris Played Well

When the #2 team in the country goes into halftime tied in a game its favored by 35 in, the narrative will obviously be about what went wrong. And things definitely did go wrong for the Dukes. But we also need to give Robert Morris credit for what it did right.

The Colonials are a good football team. They’re not national title contenders, but they’re on a completely different level than Morehead State or the last Robert Morris team that visited Bridgeforth. They more than held their own on the lines of scrimmage in the first half. Their defensive line got into the backfield to slow down JMU’s running backs and pressure Johnson. And the secondary played well, reading Cole’s eyes and making plays on the ball. They’re a good football team that executed a good gameplan. Unfortunately for them, JMU adjusted and took over in the second half. But props to them for turning some heads and exceeding the expectations that anyone had for them heading into the game.


We’re not going to sit here and attempt to rationalize Cole Johnson’s three first half picks. He made poor throws and poor decisions. For JMU to be successful, he’s got play better. There’s no denying that. And while we were as disappointed as anyone with the turnovers, we’re also kind of amazed by his resilience.

Many players lose their confidence when the wheels start to come off. The wheels were definitely coming off for Cole, but he put it behind him and lead the team on late TD drive in the second quarter. From that point on, it was pretty much all JMU. As disappointed as we were in his mistakes, we were probably just as impressed with the fact that Johnson and his teammates didn’t fall apart. We didn’t see any signs of the team splintering. We saw a bunch of players and coaches who just kept playing.

And they played a completely different game after the break. The defense held Robert Morris to 24 yards of offense. The offense scored 20 points. They turned what was a very tough battle, into a bit of blowout.

This Was a Blessing

This is going to be a strange football season. Top teams were dropping like flies yesterday. North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Elon, Wofford, Furman, and other ranked teams all lost. While some of those losses might ultimately be due to the fact that certain teams were overrated, they’re also great reminders that teams can’t take weeks off.

JMU faced some serious adversity yesterday. Robert Morris played much tougher and more physical than anyone thought they would, and the Dukes dug themselves in a hole. But they battled back and proved that they’re not going to wilt under pressure. Ultimately, that’s more valuable than cruising to an easy win against an overmatched opponent. This one wasn’t pretty and it probably had many Dukes fans freaking out, but it could pay dividends down the road. We didn’t think the Dukes would take a punch until maybe the playoffs. Well, they took a tough one yesterday and then countered. That’s a good thing.


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  1. CJ / Feb 28 2021

    Prior to Saturday, my biggest concern about this season was that I thought our schedule was too weak. I was afraid that we’d cruise through Morehead State, Robert Morris, and a relatively weak CAA South lineup, and then get to the playoffs untested and unprepared to take on elite opponents.

    Obviously, after yesterday I’ve shifted to more immediate concerns. There were times in that second quarter that I honestly thought we may very well lose the game. Big credit for making the adjustments and settling down in the second half, but what a red flag it is that we can look ineffective against a team like Robert Morris. Robert Morris is an okay team, but if we struggle against them, then we’ll have major problems with any given CAA team.

    I think my biggest concern is QB. Cole was terrible in that first half. I give him credit for hanging in there and improving in the second half. But even in the second half, he didn’t look sharp to me. His mobility and accuracy was average at best, and we need much better than that if we’re going to do anything in the playoffs. Maybe Cole will shake off the jitters and develop like DiNucci did, but from what I’ve seen thus far, I’m ready to see what Gage Moloney can do.

    COVID has college sports off the rails to some extent, and I think this spring season will have plenty of surprises. But even with the abbreviated season, it’s still a marathon and not a sprint. I hope Cignetti can keep the guys focused and stay the course. It’s gonna be interesting.

  2. RMD / Mar 1 2021

    When a team fails to perform to its standards in the first half they are supposed to regroup at half time, make adjustments, and come out fighting to win the second half, which is exactly what JMU did. Good on them for getting the job done after a poor start. My concern is coming away with two field goals in the red zone in the second half instead of touchdowns. If we’re going to taunt everyone with how great our running backs are, we need to be able to punch the ball in from close range.

  3. ShadyP / Mar 1 2021

    Total props to the team for righting the ship and dominating the 2nd half.

    The Defense and Special Teams played excellent. The defense only really gave up 1 score in my opinion the other points given up were on the offense due to turnovers.

    Bottom line is Cojo has to play better period. I also think there will be a very short leash on Cojo going forward. I don’t think Cig is gonna just stick with him after another performance like that 1st half.

    Also I think the offense better be ready to throw to be able to run. After that expect teams to load/stack the box to take away the run and force JMU to pass.

  4. Rob K / Mar 1 2021

    I really liked the resilience from the team – the drive before the half was incredibly sharp and well-executed. I really liked the second half defense – you can really see the difference that adjustments can make. I really liked our special teams – we are blessed with a top-tier punter and kicker in the FCS. I really liked how Cholewa looks like the really deal in the middle of the defensive line.

    A lot of people were saying last year that we should bench Nooch. The Dallas Cowboys saw something different. It’s certainly going to be a period of adjustment for the team and the fans at QB.

  5. Tidewater Duke / Mar 1 2021

    You could tell when JMU took the field that it was not taking RMU seriously. In fact there were a couple of pass breakups that could have been interference on the Dukes. I think it says it all that CIG said in the post game that we need to stop worrying about what color shoes we are wearing in warmups.

  6. JMU2K1 / Mar 2 2021

    Keep kicking field goals, Coach…

  7. Kevin R '94 / Mar 2 2021

    JMU’s schedule _is_ weak, but there’s not much they could do about that. There aren’t too many FBS teams willing to pay/play us, and the CAA’s pretty good, so that’s usually a decent test. Then Covid hits, and we have a bunch of bad teams to play.

    So RMU was MUCH better prepared and engaged. Good for them – they punched us in the face. Cole made a few bad decisions:
    – that first INT was a concept with 3 receivers to the right against 2 layers of zone. One of them was going to be open and he threw to the least-open guy. He should have chosen the outlet.
    – the second was a mis-read of a zone, and probably involved losing the ROLB among the crowd.
    – the third was trying to force a throw on 3rd and long to a guy who just wasn’t open.

    The common thread in all of them is that Cole was trying to make great throws when he’s just not capable of them. In a game where you’re going to pummel the other team, don’t try to be a hero. Take what’s there, and that’ll win the game for you. He tried to, and failed.

    The GOOD news is that he got the message, and played within his talent level, and let the rest of the team play within theirs.

    Hopefully with time as QB1 he’ll learn better footwork and to stop telegraphing his throws. He’ll need that to succeed against teams in the playoffs. Until then, the defense is great and the running attack is great. The only throwing we’ll need to do is some stuff to the flat and some play-action deep to keep them from just assuming runs every play.

  8. Diller / Mar 4 2021

    My big concern with Cole is that he seems hesitant to keep the ball on the read options, I think he kept one in the first half. This has to be a threat or the D will key on the running back every time. They didn’t run a ton of read options in the second half, but this is the second game and I think he has 2 QB keeps in two games.

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